Federal farm loans get OK

August 09, 1997


Staff Writer

Federal disaster relief is on the way for farmers in 12 Maryland counties, including Washington and Frederick, officials announced Friday.

While elected officials praised the Clinton administration for reacting quickly to the drought, the news failed to perk up area farmers faced with devastating crop losses.

Farmers fear the low-interest loans being offered by the federal government will only delay their woes.

Earlier this week, farmer Nelson Reeder said he won't apply for a loan, even though dry weather devastated his 50-acre corn crop near Boonsboro.

Cindy Reeder said Friday that her husband probably won't reconsider. That would be like betting on a good crop next year and farmers know all too well that is far from a sure thing, she said.


"A loan is just a quick fix," Cindy Reeder said. "I told him he's better off going to Wall Street. It's a gamble every time he puts seed in the ground."

Farmers say higher milk prices would help more than loans.

The cost of producing milk keeps going up while wholesale prices have remained the same for 15 years, according to Don Schwartz, local agricultural agent for the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland.

The drought could cause some farmers to get out of the business altogether, as 70 dairy farmers in the county have done since 1982.

"You put it in the ground with good faith that the rains will come. It's not fun farming anymore," Cindy Reeder said.

Washington County has lost 90 percent of its non-irrigated vegetables, 60 percent of its corn and soybeans, half of its pasture and 38 percent of its hay crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Maryland Emergency Board.

Loans at 3.75 percent interest will be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency.

Maryland officials requested the federal relief last month from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.

Sens. Paul S. Sarbanes and Barbara A. Mikulski, along with U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, commended the quick action.

Farmers in the following counties are eligible for emergency loans under the disaster declaration: Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Kent, Montgomery, Queen Anne's, Talbot and Washington.

Adjoining areas where some farmers may be eligible for relief are: Allegany, Anne Arundel, Dorchester and Prince George's counties and Baltimore City.

"The disaster funds are vital to help farm families make it through the tough times caused by the drought," said Mikulski, D-Maryland.

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